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9 Months have passed since you started the Sparkling Hill Healthy Lifestyles Challenge. A lot has hopefully changed since January: You are continuing to make better nutrition choices, like limiting processed foods and getting at least 6 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. You are physically active almost every day and you are even working on the less sexy habits like getting a good night’s sleep and reducing your stress levels. With all these changes you still may be experiencing a roller coaster ride of good days and bad days. So this month we will work on:

Identifying your limiting factors
A limiting factor can be defined as something that is interfering with or preventing you from moving forward with your health goals. By identifying these obstacles you can then work towards removing them and bettering your overall health. Some limiting factors can be easy to spot, like constantly eating out because of lack of time, or more difficult, such as having that extra beer or two while binging on Netflix which is affecting your sleep. The truth is, we all have limiting factors… some of us just have more or bigger limiting factors than others. Some of the most common types and examples of limiting factors include:

  • Food choices – i.e. Not eating enough nutritious, whole, minimally processed foods
  • Mindset – i.e. Not being consistent with healthy habits and behaviors
  • Eating behaviors – i.e. Over eating or skipping meals
  • Exercise and activity – i.e. Not getting adequate or regular physical activity
  • Recovery – i.e. Not getting enough sleepFood and cooking skills – i.e. Unable to prepare basic healthy meals
  • Life skills – i.e. Making too many impulsive food choices
  • Environment – i.e. An unsupportive network of family of friends that hinder your goals

Think back over the last 9 months of the Sparkling Hill Health Challenge, have there been challenges that you have not done so well or had trouble sticking to? Digging deeper to uncover why those challenges weren’t as easy as others, will help to uncover your limiting factors. It might be a big list and taking on every single one of them at once would be a recipe for disaster. Instead aim to improve just one thing at a time. (Hint – improving one factor, can often improve other limiting factors as well; like increasing your exercise frequency will lead to less impulsive shopping, making you more consistent with healthy choices, this may even help with your sleep) Identifying your limiting factors may take some time and they often start to show up as you try to introduce new healthy habits.

So how can you improve limiting factors? Well, start small! Ask yourself what can and can’t I change? If you can’t change something, look for other ways that help you through your unchangeable obstacles. You can also ask yourself – What am I willing or not willing to change? If you try to improve a behavior but really didn’t want to in the first place, you may struggle to succeed. If you are READY, WILLING, and ABLE to change a limiting factor, your chances of success will sky rocket. So before making a change, make sure that you are at least 90% sure, that you are ready, willing, and able to make a change for yourself. If you don’t think that 9 times out of ten you can do the task then you need to make your change smaller and more manageable. Remember to give yourself a realistic chance to work on changes; many limiting factors are longtime habits or issues that can be tough to break out of.

When working through limiting factors it doesn’t have to be all or nothing; in fact, all or nothing thinking is the reason why crash diets can never be sustained. How many times have you started a new diet and the moment things go wrong you quit? Instead try to work on a continuum, always asking yourself what could I do to be a little better? Another technique is to break your goal down from a long term to a short term task. For example take the long term goal of weight loss (eat better, exercise more, sleep 8 hours, prep my meals, reduce my stress… etc) and think about in terms of what do I have to do this month? What about this week? What about today? Smaller goals end up being more manageable and often have to do more with being consistent rather than trying to do everything all at once.

Finally, if you are still struggling to stay healthy you may need to start asking yourself some unorthodox questions. Try answering the following 4 questions about yourself; your answers may reveal more about your current state of mind as well as your willingness to change, than you previously thought.

What’s GOOD about NOT changing?             What’s BAD about changing?
What’s GOOD about changing?  What’s BAD about NOT changing?

These questions can help you reveal the discrepancies in your current behavior when compared to what you think you want and this helps you to realize what’s really important to you right now.

A note on trying to remove limiting factors: Be careful! As you can quickly go down the rabbit hole and find everything that is “wrong” with your lifestyle. Try to work on limiting factors 20% of the time and do things you do well the other 80% of the time, this will help you to stay happy, sane and focused. As always, be sure to work on one limiting factor at a time until you have successfully transformed it into a healthier habit and remember to always embrace positive wins, even if they are small wins, instead of focusing only on the negatives.

Always reward your progress but challenge yourself to think…
“What can I do just a little better?”